Yes, NFTs are brainless – but so is most art

The garish, exorbitantly priced JPGs currently bewitching the art world might not be to everyone’s taste. But since when has that mattered?

With its knack for colliding cultural novelty with fast money and a lack of judgement, contemporary art is always an easy target for ridicule – “You paid how much for that thing?” – the fable of the emperor’s new clothes the go-to of exasperated aesthetic traditionalists. Right now, in contemporary art there’s currently no greater shock of the new than the chaotic explosion of NFT art – digital “artworks” of wildly varying quality, traded in online markets, themselves riding the bizarre boom in cryptocurrencies.

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Fear of statues

My comment on statue-smashing, from Eric Gill to William Colston, for ArtReview

Amid the furious arguments that now surround whether statues should be toppled, destroyed, removed to a museum, ‘interpreted’ or just left where they are, the truth that most statues, most of the time, go unnoticed, is rarely acknowledged. Every day, thousands of Londoners walk past the old entrance of the BBC’s Broadcasting House and never give Prospero and Ariel (1932), installed in an alcove above it, a second glance. But on Wednesday evening, a man scaled a ladder to take a hammer to the sculpture, knocking lumps out of the naked Ariel figure’s feet and legs, and suddenly everyone looked up.

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2021: the Year the Artwork Finally Dematerialised

Originally published in the December 2021 ‘Power 100’ issue of ArtReview

This was the year that the art object was finally dematerialised. It’s not that eye-melting amounts weren’t still being paid for physical things, of course. After COVID-19 and lockdowns, the art auction market has come roaring back; at the Sotheby’s sale of the collection of Harry and Linda Macklowe in November, a painting by Mark Rothko went for $82.5m, a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti for $68m. Physical artworks continue to attract financial value to them, in which money is captured and congealed, in vast amounts.

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